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NIOSH N95 Mask FAQ
Specific N95 manufacturers and mask models are approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). As with all NIOSH-certified N95 respirators, these products have been evaluated by the NIOSH certification process and have demonstrated that they can filter out a minimum of 95% of airborne particles under worst case test conditions. The CDC NIOSH approval number for N95 masks begin with TC 84A-xxxx and can be used to search the NIOSH supplier list on the CDC’s website here. NIOSH testing is conducted by the National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NPPTL). You can feel confident in the quality of a NIOSH-approved N95 mask.
No. Surgical masks are not designed for use as particulate respirators and do not provide as much respiratory protection as an N95 respirator. Surgical masks provide barrier protection against droplets including large respiratory particles. Most surgical masks do not effectively filter small particles from the air and do not prevent leakage around the edge of the mask when the user inhales.2 The NIOSH Science Blog: N95 Respirators and Surgical Masks, posted 10/15/2009, provides an explanation of the science behind and the similarities/differences between NIOSH-approved particulate respirators and surgical masks.